First and foremost, I’ll admit that I’m not a religious scholar. Having said that, the concept of original sin has always struck me as being particularly odd. It’s an origin story for the human condition and there are many translations, rewordings, and modern interpretations. It’s a myth (or fact, depending on who I’m talking to) that’s collected strong imagery over the centuries and incites a sort of vague feverishness. “This is where it all went wrong,” I remember thinking in bible study as a kid. To answer your question, my mom only had to drag me there 80% of the time. Sometimes I wanted to go all on my own.
Anyway, this origin story — the garden, Adam and Eve, the serpent — provides an emotionally compelling blueprint for our Christian society. Obedience to god’s will is celebrated as being the highest form of praise and worship. Even over love! Didn’t the good lord essentially dare Abraham to kill his son, just to see if he would do it? Then, like a drunken frat guy, jump out like, “WHOA! Easy, I get it, you’ll do it. You don’t actually have to kill the kid.” To me, this is a childish thing for the creator to do. If he’s omniscient, wouldn’t he know that Abraham would make that choice without putting him through that type of stress? But I digress. Obedience! It’s vital to spiritual well-being, and deviation from the will of the lord leads to disasters like mortality, pain during childbirth, and fratricide (shout out to Cain, he was a real one).
These little things aside, my fundamental issue is with the actual logic of the events surrounding the so-called original sin. See, I’m of the opinion that Eve didn’t commit the original sin and that the concept itself is flawed.
Here’s a brief recap. God creates the heavens, the earth, and everything in between. He then creates man and is pretty pleased with himself. He places this man in the garden of Eden to take care of the place and, after some trial and error (weird for an omniscient deity to do the trial and error thing), eventually decides to create Eve from Adam’s rib.
Now, when god placed Adam in the garden, he told him flat out, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Then Eve gets the same party rules and they go about living their lives. Straightforward stuff.
Until a serpent appears in the garden and has a very frank and frighteningly interesting conversation with Eve. This is called the first temptation or whatever, and every church I’ve ever been to has made this serpent out to be devilish and sneaky. But here’s what the “crafty” serpent says:
“You will not certainly die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Eve checks out the tree and decides the fruit (there’s no biblical mention of an apple) looks good. What’s great is that what really drove her was a desire to gain wisdom. She shares it with Adam because she’s a nice girlfriend. (There’s no mention of a wedding.) Upon eating the fruit, they realize that they’re naked and hastily clothe themselves. God appears in the garden, discovers they’ve eaten from the tree, and like a bad parent, starts yelling at everyone. But remember that sneaky serpent, the one who “tempted” Eve? At the end of the chapter we find out that all he did was tell her truth. God says:
“The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
Isn’t that wild? Doesn’t that read a lot like a king who covets his power and does everything he can to ensure his reign? What issue would a loving god have with giving his creations wisdom and everlasting life? Why would that be a threat to the most merciful? This isn’t loving, stern, or fair. Here in this passage we have a panicked god.
The above are all character points that I’ve endeavored to highlight so that I can illustrate the sinister nature of this god character. But this is my main point: not only is god sinister here but he’s also, frankly, kind of stupid.
Here’s where the original sin myth falls apart for me: there’s no way that Eve could have known that disobedience was wrong before she ate the fruit. Within the text, this is not possible because the tree that she ate from was the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which suggests that prior to eating the fruit she (nor Adam) had any knowledge of right or wrong. How can you commit a sin if you don’t know that it’s a sin? You can’t.
Technically, Adam and Eve could have been beating and raping each other daily without any knowledge that they were doing something wrong. This is extreme, of course, but I enjoy the exercise of knocking the garden of Eden down a peg or two.
What this boils down to is that god placed Adam and Eve in the garden, told them the one thing they couldn’t do and then watched them do it anyway, knowing that they didn’t have full knowledge of their actions. Eve eating the fruit wasn’t original sin. The original sin was the fact that god lied. He said if they ate of the tree then they would die and then later said, “Damn, they’re like us now, we have to cut them off before they get too powerful.”
Oh, by the way: who’s “us”? This is a spooky case for Mulder and Scully.